June 25, 2012 by

Sheep, baaaaaa…..

Categories: Research

To say that there are sheep in Wales is like saying there is salt in the sea.  Some of them are even smart, apparently:

“Professor Morton put a flock of Welsh mountain sheep through a series of tests to measure their intelligence … [they] can map their surroundings, and may even be able to plan ahead.

The discovery shows they have the brainpower to equal rodents, monkeys and, in some tests, even humans … Professor Jenny Morton from the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge says the beasts’ ‘stupid’ reputation may be unwarranted.

She told BBC Wales: “Our tests showed they can do what is known as executive decision making. We looked at whether they were able to understand rules and got them to do what is known as a choice discrimination task. But when we changed the rules, they behaved pretty much as a human in that they got bothered about us changing those rules.”

They’re not as daft as they look”

Professor Jenny MortonCambridge University

Some facts about sheep in Wales:

1.  There are 33 million sheep in Wales.  The human population is 3 million.  http://www.wales.com/en/content/cms/english/about_wales/wales_fact_file/wales_fact_file.aspx

2.  Sheep have been in Wales a LONG time.  “Domestication of wild sheep took place by 7000 BC in central Asia (Barber) and, possibly, considerably before. Ryder, who has written extensively on the history of sheep in Britain, suggests that the first domestic sheep were introduced into Britain by Neolithic settlers around 4000 BC and that these were probably horned brown sheep, similar to Soay. Preserved wool from the Bronze Age appears to be Soay.”  http://www.wildfibres.co.uk/html/sheep_history.html

3.  One of the reasons that the uplands of Wales remain bare, despite the significant rainfall, is the sheep, who eat any new trees before they can grow.  http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/advisorynotes/115/115.htm

4. In the Middle Ages, because the Welsh were primarily pastoral instead of farmers, they had few towns of any size. Normans also looked down on the Welsh for this reason, as farming was more ‘civilized’.   http://www.medievalists.net/files/09012324.pdf

3 Responses to Sheep, baaaaaa…..

  1. John Jenkins

    We visited Wales in 2010. We played golf at Southerndown Golf Course in Bridgend and were surprised to find sheep grazing on all 18 fairways!

    • Sarah Post author

      And probably even more surprised by the little presents they left behind 🙂

  2. N. Gemini Sasson

    This is what I remember about Wales, too! Going down the highway, you really had to keep your eyes on the road. Sometimes they’d be standing on a wall next to the road and hop down in front of the car, which would start a whole parade of sheep crossing the road that you had to wait on.